Supreme Court Rules Defense of Marriage Act Unconstitutional, Strikes Down Prop 8 on Procedural Grounds

Key quotes from the the DOMA decision:

“DOMA singles out a class of persons deemed by a State entitled to recognition and protection to enhance their own liberty.”

“DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment.”

And from the Prop 8 case:

“We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to. We decline to do so for the first time here.”

The Court ruled exactly as the conventional wisdom said it would. I’d say that the only surprise was the composition of the opinions in the Prop 8 case. It’s not every day you see Roberts, Breyer, Kagan, and Scalia on the same side of an issue like this.

The Defense of Marriage Act was a clear violation of states’ rights. Marriage is in the legal domain of the states and the federal government has no business deciding who is and is not married. All state sanctioned marriages should be considered equal under federal law, and with this decision they now are.

As for Prop 8, the Court punted on deciding whether same-sex marriage is protected by the Constitution. Instead, they ruled that the plaintiffs lacked standing to appeal the original decision that overturned Proposition 8 back in 2010. They were unable to prove that they were personally injured by the striking down of that law and as private parties (not representing the state of California) they could not appeal that ruling.

On a legal level, I have to say that I agree with that decision. The issue of standing is meant to prevent a torrent of lawsuits from parties that are not even remotely connected to the laws they are fighting/defending. If there are those who are injured by the lower court’s ruling, then only they should be allowed to pursue legal remedy.

I’m in favor of same-sex marriage, and there’s a part of me that wished the Court ruled on the merits of Prop 8 rather than the standing of the plaintiffs. But I also support a measured and restrained judicial branch that is hesitant to make sweeping rulings. And from a legal standpoint I’m not sure if the Constitution protects same-sex marriage. But regardless of whether same-sex marriage is a constitutional right, it seems almost inevitable that it will eventually be the law of the land nationwide.


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